“After all that time spent gently maturing in cask, whisky deserves more consideration and respect than being swiftly shot back”, says Richard Paterson, blender for Whyte & Mackay, Dalmore and Jura. He goes on by saying “my biggest pet hate is seeing people drinking whisky like a bunch of cowboys in a saloon, just swallowing it back”. His rule is to give a whisky the same amount of time on the tongue in seconds as its age in years on the label. Have you ever tried that with a 25 year old, or above? So then, explain this Mr P … I have attended a session where you explain how to nose and taste, you sipped a dram then deliberately tossed the remaining whisky in the glass, over your shoulder! That is NOT respect my man. To me and my teacher (Charlie Mac) whisky is all about nosing then dramming slowly, a wee while in your mush and swallow. Flavours happen in all of these methods, some short and some long. I cannee say I have ever chucked a dram over my shoulder. There are flavours in the background. It is not just about the hit, it is the second taste the texture and body of the whisky, the aftertaste as you finally swallow it down the throat. Whisky is like a good woman, treat it well and you shall reap rewards. Would a little water help? Aye sometimes, but work it in slowly, as water in your whisky cannee be taken oot again if there is too much. It happened to a pal once, she put too much water in, the only help I could give (it worked by the way) was to buy another of the same dram and pour that in. My own rule; try it neat first. Normally it is a heavy single cask that gets my water, 59% and above. Then we have an expensive whisky. Have you bought it to appreciate it or to show off your wallet size? It takes time to produce whisky, take time to enjoy it, not throwing it away nor showing off.
Then of course there is the self-titled Master … Jim Murray … (the jumped up journalist) his 18-step guide to tasting whisky. Eighteen rules! The first three are about distracting scents and sounds to get yourself in the zone. Nae after shave or perfume, the man is strange. Hide that Brut Liz. Can I scrape off the Hi Karate? He also says no to water and ice, we were an hour in (Vancouver) and havnee tasted a dram yet! I am ordered to warm the glass with my hands. Stretch my arm out and bring the glass to my head – if I did this in Christes (my local) pals would call the boys in white coats, he IS strange. Step 11: Jim says the first taste is to be totally ignored. Can you explain that Charlie or Rich? I chew my dram, swirling and gargling, steps 14 and 15 are about shape and balance, er, it must be the shape of the glass and how I hold it eh? Rule 16 make your final assessment after you have tasted it a third or fourth time. Flippin heck there’s no liquid left in me glass after two goes! His last two rules – form your own opinion about the whisky. I have met Bibleman three times, each time I fell out with him, why I asked, can one mans choice suddenly become the best whisky in the world and then next year not even be in the list? Excuse me but, is there money involved here in brown envelopes? Whisky is like art, in the eye (or mouth) of the beholder.
The Charlie effect. Charles is a world leading authority on Scotch whisky. He was elected a Keeper of the Quaich for “his services to Scotch over many years” in 1992 and the rare honour of being elected Master of The Quaich, the industry’s highest accolade, in October 2009. I have interviewed Charlie several times, been in the same whisky environment with him, shared the Maclean tartan and generally hero worshiped him for years. His method is NOT to give scores to whisky, ‘The best time to do nosings and tastings is in the morning, before lunch, because your whole system’s fresher,’ he advises. ‘I like to work from about 11am until lunchtime and then revisit the job at about 6pm, when you pick up different notes. Your palette becomes dull in the afternoon, I’ll just taste and spit, but when I’m doing detailed notes, I have to swallow, so I can really only comment on about four in one session.’ Way to go Maclean. You mustn’t smoke for about half an hour before nosing and tasting…no spiced curries or tequila. Does he have a favourite malt? ‘Ha! It’s impossible. The truth is that any distillery is capable of a superlative product or a dog. It’s so dependent upon the casks “the wood makes the whisky” but, for general drinking, my go-to is Johnnie Walker Black Label – if somebody else is paying!’ He has told me that many times, out of all the JW, my own choice is the black or double black. My response to my favourite malt – the one you buy me next, have used that on tours for many years, it gets around really answering the question.
This drivel was penned by Paul McLean, www.mcleanscotland.com